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July 28, 2017

Bigelow Lab lands grant to study life below the ocean floor

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay landed a $445,041 award from the National Science Foundation to fund a project studying life in the low-energy habitat beneath the ocean floor.

"The marine deep biosphere is the habitat for life existing under the sea floor," NSF stated in a description of Bigelow's project. "The zone has remarkably low energy sources, creating a paradox of how life can persist there. Resolving this energy paradox is a grand challenge in deep biosphere research."

As part of the study, Bigelow's team will embark on a two-week expedition to investigate the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank off the coast of Washington state. At the conclusion of the project, the researchers will provide public lectures and feature an interactive display of deep-sea video footage at Bigelow's annual public open house.

"The health of our oceans is essential not only to Maine's fishing industry, but to the entire global ecosystem," U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, said in a joint statement. "Although marine microbes are critical to supporting ocean life, much about these microorganisms remains unknown. This investment will support the efforts by the skilled scientists at Bigelow Laboratory to better comprehend how marine microbes are able to survive in harsh environments such as below the seafloor."

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